Schools prep for new kindergarten rules

10.25.2011 | The Daily Journal | Heather Murtagh

A new law requiring children to be 5 before entering kindergarten is giving school districts a reason to re-evaluate services offered to the youngest students and Burlingame is among the first to discuss its plan.

On Tuesday, the Burlingame Elementary School District Board of Trustees will discuss its plan for offering full-day kindergarten next year instead of staggering student start times. Those who are not yet 5 by the Oct. 31 deadline will take a half-day transitional kindergarten class. Since school starts before October, Burlingame, like most schools, could still have kindergartners start the year at 4 years old. Under the proposal, the Burlingame Elementary School District would allow those families the opportunity of enrolling into transitional or traditional kindergarten. Implementing the tradition plan, which calls for additional teachers to lower class sizes, would cost $350,000, according to a staff report by Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac. Plans for transitional kindergarten will likely more forward before any decisions are made about changing the traditional kindergarten program.

Transitional kindergarten is essentially offering the younger students a second year of kindergarten instruction. While the deadline for enrollment will be slowly moved up over three years, Burlingame suggests allowing all students born after Sept. 1 the opportunity to take the additional year starting in 2012, according to a staff report by Jud Kempson, assistant superintendent of educational services.

Under the proposal, traditional kindergarten will return to a full-day schedule. Transitional, on the other hand, will be a half-day schedule.

Both kindergartens will have smaller class sizes. District kindergarten classes currently have about 27 students per teacher. Next year, the ratio is expected to drop to 22.44:1, MacIsaac wrote. The combination of smaller class sizes and a full day of class will allow teachers more opportunities to work with students on core curriculum, she wrote.

Under the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, students must be 5 years old to start kindergarten.

California, currently one of a handful of states that permit children to start as young as 4 years and 9 months old, will be joining the majority of states who require children to be 5 by Sept. 1. The change has long been sought by teachers, who consistently report that children younger than 5 are the ones most likely to flounder and fall behind. The act, Senate Bill 1381, also establishes a transitional kindergarten, the first year of a two-year kindergarten, for children with fall birthdays (Sept. 2 to Dec. 2) who will be too young under the new cutoff date to enter regular kindergarten.

California currently requires new kindergarten students to be 5 by Dec. 2 of the school year, one of the latest cutoff dates in the nation. The Kindergarten Readiness Act moves the cutoff date to Sept. 1, phasing in the change a month at a time over three years, beginning in the fall of 2012. In 2012, for example, children need to be 5 by Nov. 1 to enroll in traditional kindergarten.

The board meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the District Office, 1825 Trousdale Drive, Burlingame.

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